The end of the school year is filled with many different opportunities to step outside of the educational box and simply have fun. Field trips are scheduled, performances are planned, and parties are enacted. For every opportunity in Eddie’s life, we have to consider whether he should be included, or not included.
In May, Eddie’s 1st grade classmates were going on a field trip to a farm. When we heard about it, we knew Eddie had to go. What could be better than touching farm animals and smelling the fresh (?) outdoors and discovering all that farms have to offer? Eddie walks to school, so even the prospect of riding a school bus sounded like something Eddie would like. We wanted him there, and his school made it happen.
The next function wasn’t so easy. Eddie’s general education class was performing a series of plays for the end of the year. There were scripts to be memorized and songs to be sung. The kids had been practicing for weeks and Eddie had begun singing songs from their practice sessions. The problem was, we didn’t recognize the songs, and didn’t know any event was being planned.
To our disappointment, by the time we realized Eddie would not be involved, it was too late. The question was asked…” to include or not to include” but was never posed to us. For reasons outside of my understanding, the decision had been made to not include. I know that Eddie is not always a “picnic” and that he likely didn’t care that he was not included…but, I cared.
Finally, as a teacher of the visually impaired, I heard about an event being planned in our adjacent city for students with visual impairments. Immediately, I thought, INCLUDE!!! I brought Eddie, another student, and their aides on an outing that included a carousel, a water fountain, and pizza for lunch (Eddie’s favorite part I’m guessing).
Eddie wasn’t sure about the carousel, but with encouragement and after a temporary meltdown while waiting in line, he had a blast. I loaded him onto the horse as he was saying, “no, no, no,” and when the ride was done he said, “more, please…Go!” Success!
The point is, when asked to include or not to include, I don’t even always know the best answer. However, I always want to try because by not including him we are simply leaving him out. We are saying that he “can’t” without even giving him a chance.
We’re not only telling Eddie he “can’t” but we are telling all his peers the same thing. The more Eddie is left out, the less they will consider him a classmate. Before we know it, he’ll just be that blind kid down the hall that spends all day working alone. He’ll be considered a fixture, but nobody will “own” him.
Imagine living without anyone wanting to take ownership of you. To be nobody’s parent, sibling, spouse, or friend? To have nobody say, “She’s my ____.” How sad. I won’t let that happen to Eddie. He is my son. He is my daughters’ brother. He is my mother’s grandson. He is YOUR student. He is YOUR classmate. He could be YOUR friend.